I’m a huge fan of Cuban food. No, I’ve not been to Cuba; my only experiences have been in Florida and what I’ve had had been fantastic. I’ve been looking for Cuban food in London but most of the “Cuban” restaurants seem more focused on the vibe rather than the food. I’d have to figure out how to cook it at home.

Luckily, there are a lot of Cuban recipes online and many Cuban recipe blogs coming out of Florida. I recently learned of one classic French-inspired braised chicken dish called fricasé de pollo. One Saturday while working from home, I realised I had most of the ingredients to make this fricasé in my fridge. The recipe (I put together from various recipes on the internet) takes a little preparation beforehand in the form of marinading the chicken but as usual, it’s worth it. All the tomatoes and chicken and raisins give a richness and sweetness that’s perfectly balanced by the citrus juices and olives and capers.

Fricase de Pollo

Fricasé de Pollo
serves 3-4.

1 kg of chicken parts (I used drumsticks and thighs)
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange
3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (I didn’t have this and left it out – it didn’t harm the dish)
2 bay leaves
1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
1 scant teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup wine
about 200ml passata
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives
a few teaspoons of capers
1/4 cup raisins
2 tbsps roughly chopped parsley
3 small-medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

In a large non-reactive bowl, mix together the juices, the garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, a large pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Whisk this all together and then mix in the chicken parts, ensuring that all parts are evenly coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least a few hours or overnight.

In a large and deep saute pan, heat a little olive oil over medium high heat. Dab each chicken piece dry with some kitchen paper (reserving the marinade in the bowl) and brown in batches. Set the chicken aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add a little more olive oil if required. Saute the onion and green pepper (if using) until translucent. Add the oregano, cumin and bay leaves and fry for another minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring up any chicken bits. Stir in the passata and place the chicken pieces back into the pan in one layer. Add just enough water to cover the chicken pieces. Add the reserved marinade, olives, capers, raisins, parsley, and potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cover.

When the potatoes and chicken are cooked through (mine were after about 30 minutes), serve. This is perfect over white rice and black beans if you have any.

This recipe comes via Blai’s mother and has become one of our favourites. It’s simple to put together, we almost always have all the ingredients lying about at home and the end result tastes fantastic with the tender chicken and almost caramelised onion and tomato pieces. The Catalans rarely roast chickens whole, preferring to cut them first into pieces; I like this – it gives each piece a chance to get its skin nice and crispy. The recipe can easily be scaled to feed more too.

Catalan Roast Chicken

We like to serve it with kale cooked in the Catalan way with raisins and pine nuts and either some good bread to mop up the delectable sauce or some fried potatoes or, even better, both. I’m also particularly fond of squeezing out the roasted garlic onto some bread. I know I’ll be serving this recipe up a few times over the Christmas season this year!

Catalan Roast Chicken
serves 3-4.

4 chicken legs, separated into drumstick and thigh
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
dried oregano
1 large onion, sliced thickly
2 tomatoes, sliced thickly
3-4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
about 100ml of white wine or cognac

Preheat your oven to 220 Celsius.

Arrange the chicken pieces skin side up in a roasting pan (they should fit in one layer). Rub them all over with olive oil and then dust with salt, pepper and dried oregano. Arrange the onion and tomato slices in between the chicken pieces. Snap the cinnamon stick in half and then also arrange that, the garlic and the bay leaves around the chicken. Drizzle olive oil over all and then splash on the wine/cognac.

Place in the oven and roast, turning twice throughout the cooking process (they should finish with their skin sides up), until fully cooked, skin burnished brown and much of the liquid has cooked down to a thick, almost gravy (this will take somewhere between 1 hour and 1.5 hours). Serve, spooning the sauce and the roasted onion and tomato over.

Chicken and waffles! This classic soul food combination could now be made in my home since I purchased a waffle iron in Hong Kong, a small stove top model that doesn’t take up any counter space. To avoid actual frying of the chicken, I looked towards an oven baked recipe. Amanda Hesser’s recipe for her mother Judy Hesser’s oven fried chicken had been on my to-cook list for ages and a craving for fried chicken and waffles had me finally try it out. It looked easy enough but what’s fried chicken without a cold buttermilk soak and so I adapted the recipe to include that. The result was delicious, moist on the inside, ‘fried’ chicken. It’ll never make up for proper fried chicken but it came close.

Oven Fried Chicken

Who was the first person to pair fried chicken and waffles though? There’s no one story on the Wikipedia entry but whoever it was, I tip my hat to them. A bite of salty, savoury chicken and then a forkful of waffle dripping with melted butter and maple syrup…well, I’ll just leave it at that.

Chicken and Waffles

The waffles. Oh, the waffles! I’ve made them more than once now. They are ridiculously simple and live up to their name of Insane Greatness. Do make them if you have a waffle iron. My cheap waffle iron meant that my waffles were not the most evenly cooked but they were still so good with crisp surfaces. Then yes, pair them with this chicken.

Stack o' Waffles

Oven Fried Chicken
adapted from Judy Hesser’s recipe.

8 chicken thighs
250 ml buttermilk
salt, freshly ground black pepper
any other seasonings (I used paprika and Lawry’s seasoned salt)
3 tbsps oil

Place your chicken thighs into a large zippered plastic bag, pour over the buttermilk and add 1 tsp of salt. Zip up your bag, shake it all up well to ensure that all the chicken is coated, and place in your refrigerator for at least 8 hours to marinate.

Preheat your oven to 200 Celsius. Take a large roasting pan that will fit all the chicken in a single layer, add the oil and place in the oven to heat. In another large zippered bag, place some flour in (about 1/2 cup or so) and season well with salt, pepper and any other seasonings you fancy. Pull the chicken out of the buttermilk and pat dry. Toss them two at a time into the bag of flour and toss about under well coated with flour. Set aside.

Pull the now hot roasting pan out of the oven, place in the chicken thighs skin side down and in one layer only, and put it back in the oven. After about 40 minutes, check to see if the skin on the chicken is brown. If so, scrape the chicken off the bottom of the pan and flip and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes.

If your chicken was like mine, all stupid and watery, line a baking sheet with foil and rescue your submerged chicken and flip them skin side up onto the baking sheet and continue baking. They’ll be fine.

I have paprika on the mind. We’ve just come back from a short trip to Vienna and I picked up a bag of a lovely paprika in the hopes of making a gulasch at home soon. Coincidentally, I had already had a go at making chicken paprikash prior to my trip, not knowing that I was going to a land full of this magnificent spice.

Chicken Paprikash

I’ll have my Vienna posts up soon (I love going through the photos) but first, the chicken paprikash recipe. It’s spicy and creamy and rich and everything I was looking for that day. I chose to use chicken thigh fillets, thus cutting down on the cooking time and making it very suitable for a weeknight dinner. We had ours on rice but buttered noodles would be good too (and more traditional) and even bread would be excellent to sop up the sauce. Try to use a Hungarian paprika if you can find it – it’s flavour is totally worth it.

Chicken Paprikash
serves 3.

6 skinless, boneless chicken thigh fillets
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sunflower oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tbsps Hungarian paprika, sweet or sweet-hot
2 tomatoes, chopped
350 ml chicken stock
50-100 ml sour cream

Heat about 200ml sunflower oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Mix flour, salt and black pepper in a shallow bowl and dust the thigh fillets in this mixture. When the oil is hot, fry the thigh fillets on both sides until browned. When browned (but not necessarily cooked through), drain and set aside.

Drain all but about 1 tbsp of oil in the saute pan and melt the butter in too. Add the chopped onion and fry until softened. Throw in the garlic and continue sauteing until the raw smell of the garlic becomes the mellow sweetness of cooked. Add the paprika and chopped tomatoes and continue frying for another few minute. Pour in the chicken stock and stir thoroughly to combine. Place the chicken thighs back into the saute pan and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let simmer for about 10 minutes, turning once halfway through. Stir through the sour cream (start with a bit and add more if you’re happy – I ended up using all 100ml as I felt like it!) and bring back to a simmer. Season to taste and serve on top of rice or buttered noodles or with bread.

At the end of June, I was asked if I’d like to take part in the shooting of an internet promo ad for the new Lenovo IdeaPad K1 Tablet. It sounded like fun – two days of filming and eating and just being myself really; it certainly did turn out to be fun and it was the production team who invited me to lunch at The Sportsman. A few days ago, the result was put up on YouTube. The video was made by the production team at HMX Media and filmed by Matt Uhry and it was terrific working with them all. A few of my photos from those two days can be found in this Flickr photoset.

This was my first attempt to recreate a Vietnamese curry that I loved in Vancouver; however, the curry from my memories had large meatballs while this is a more traditional cà ri gà – a chicken curry. Still, it was delicious and a relatively quick curry with a short ingredient list to make on a weekday; it really helped with my curry craving that day! We sopped up the gravy with a baguette, as is done in Vietnam (so I’ve read, I’ve not been) but you can also serve it with rice or noodles.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry

I didn’t have a proper Vietnamese curry powder (I found a photo of this brand but I have no idea what is available in London)and so, on the advice I found online, substituted a very yellow (yup, lots of turmeric) Malaysian curry powder (Yeo’s brand in the packet). If you need a bit more heat, add some chili paste in but check first if you’re using a Malaysian powder – most have some chilli powder in the blend. Do make sure you give it as long a simmer as you can; too short a time and you’ll still be able to taste the raw spices.

Vietnamese Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry
adapted from this recipe.
serves 2-3.

Approx. 500g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed and cut into large chunks
1 large orange-fleshed sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large potato (floury), peeled
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick lemongrass, left whole but smashed
a thumb sized lump of ginger, minced
4 tbsps curry powder
2 tbsps sunflower oil
160 mL coconut milk
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsps fish sauce
2 spring onions, finely sliced
a few sprigs of coriander

Mix the chunks of thigh fillet together with 2 tbsps of the curry powder and a good pinch of salt. Set aside.

Prepare all your vegetables. Cut the potato in half and then chop one half into large chunks and cut the other half into small pieces. These small pieces will help thicken the curry.

Heat a pot over medium heat and add the sunflower oil to heat. When hot, add the shallots, garlic and ginger and saute until the shallots are soft and the ginger and garlic are fragrant. Add the rest of the curry powder and the lemongrass and continue frying for a couple of minutes.

Throw in the chicken and cook until no raw bits appear. Add the coconut milk and then cover with water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

Add the vegetables, add water if required (to cover them all) and continue simmering – probably another 20-30 minutes. The vegetables should be soft and the smaller bits of potato disintegrating into the sauce. As well, there shouldn’t be a raw curry powder flavour to the curry; if there is, continue simmering, adding water if it gets too thick.

Stir in the sugar, fish sauce and salt to taste. Dish out into bowls and top with the spring onion and coriander.

Serve with white rice or noodles or a baguette on the side.

A fried chicken cutlet? Yes, please! But how about an Asian-style one, one that originated around where I was born? I cannot recall eating this Hainanese chicken chop when I was growing up in Malaysia or Singapore but it’s quite a well known local dish with a western influence. Other Hainanese dishes that have western origins include Hainanese mushroom soup, lamb stew, macaroni pie, and chicken pie – I like to call it all historical or traditional fusion! I don’t know much about the original Hainan cuisine from the island in China but I can already see that their most famous dish, Hainanese chicken rice, must have derived from Wenchang chicken.

But how did so much of the Hainanese cuisine in the Straits become so influenced by Europe? The story goes that during the British colonial era, there were many Hainanese cooks who ended up fusing the two cuisines into this modern one. Apart from combining with British cuisine, I even found a reference to Hainanese-Russian cuisine! From what I understand, other Hainanese dishes incorporate Nyonya ingredients and preparations too, bringing the two Asian cuisines together.

Hainanese Chicken Chop

The chicken chop is one such Hainanese-western dish and is a fried chicken cutlet topped with a thick Asian style gravy. I love how the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce are included in the sauce; they must surely be the Western ingredients! If you’re more partial to pork, you can make it with that too – that variant is also very common in Malaysia and Singapore. I’d recommend serving this with white rice or increasing the potato count to make it a meal in one.

Hainanese Chicken Chop

Hainanese Chicken Chop
adapted from Rose’s Kitchen and 3 hungry tummies
serves 2-3.

6 chicken thigh fillets
plain flour and salt
2 eggs
dry breadcrumbs
sunflower oil for frying

3-4 medium sized potatoes
1 tbsp sunflower oil

For the sauce:
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic, minced
350 mL vegetable stock or water
3 tbsps ketchup
2 tbsps oyster sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tomatoes or a handful or two of cherry tomatoes
a handful of frozen peas
salt and white pepper
2 tsps cornstarch/cornflour

Scrub and peel your potatoes and slice them into wedges. Either fry them or roast them – I did the latter. To roast, heat your oven to 200 Celsius. Place all your wedges into a resealable bag, pour in the tablespoon of oil and a few pinches of salt. Seal the bag and toss together to coat the wedges evenly. Pour out the wedges onto a lined baking tray and arrange into a single layer. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. Flip about halfway through cooking.

Set out three shallow bowls to prep your chicken. In one, add flour and season it well with salt. In another, beat your two eggs, Finally, in the third, pour in the dry breadcrumbs. Pound the chicken thighs flat – you want them of even thickness. Dredge in the flour, then dip in the egg, and finally coat thoroughly in breadcrumbs, pressing them on to stick.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add sunflower oil to a depth of about 1 cm. When oil is hot, shallow fry your chicken pieces. The oil should bubble around the chicken. Fry for a few minutes on each side, until the cutlet is brown. Drain on kitchen paper.

Time to make the sauce. Slice the onion thinly from top to bottom. Cut your tomatoes into wedges or cut your cherry tomatoes in half.

Either clean out your original frying pan or use another one. Heat it over medium heat and add the oil followed by the sliced onion shortly after. When the onion has softened (after frying for a couple minutes), add the minced garlic and continue frying for another minute. Pour in the stock/water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to bring it all to a simmer.

Add the sauces (oyster, ketchup and Worcestershire) and stir to combine. Add the tomatoes and peas and stir through. Let simmer for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper. Create a cornstarch slurry with the cornstarch and cold water and use to thicken the mixture.

Slice the chicken into strips and arrange on a platter with the potato wedges. Pour over the sauce and serve immediately.

We couldn’t leave Singapore without having one of its national dishes: Hainanese chicken rice. If you’ve not had this before, you’d be forgiven if you take one look at it and wonder what the big deal about boiled chicken and rice is. Ah, but looks are deceiving. The chicken is poached with plenty of aromatics and the rice is cooked with the resulting stock, rendering it wonderfully fragrant. In Singapore, you get the rice, the chicken, some of the stock served as soup and a chilli sauce and dark soy sauce on the side. It’s absolutely delicious but I never expected to have it twice while I was there!

One night, we headed to Boon Tong Kee, a popular chain of chicken rice restaurants, and though it’s a chain, the chicken rice is rated highly there. As it’s a proper restaurant, they also have a full menu of other dishes as well, lending a bit of variety to the meal. Our very friendly waiter suggested that we try both their chicken versions and so we went with half a Hainanese poached chicken …

Hainanese Poached Chicken

… and half a crispy deep fried chicken. This was served with a wasabi dip and very fine salt, both not really necessary. We already had individual sauce dishes of the traditional red chilli, garlic and ginger sauce for the Hainanese chicken. Both chickens were excellent, with the tender poached chicken just edging out the fried one for first place in my books.

Roast Chicken

Individual bowls of chicken rice (that is, the rice cooked in the chicken stock) were doled out and we started tucking in. I loved their rice – according to the Makansutra guide, each grain is lovingly coated in their secret recipe sauce before cooking.

Chicken Rice

My colleague chose this stewed pork belly with preserved vegetable, and in doing so, he went up greatly in esteem in the eyes of our waiter. It was everything we expected: a luxuriously fatty bit of pork belly stewed with dark soy with salty preserved mustard greens. It was excellent and a good way of keeping the meal from being too healthy.

Stewed Pork Belly with Preserved Vegetable

Again we ordered bean sprouts with salted fish, a dish common in Singapore and Malaysia but not so common here. This version was excellent but the attention to detail is what impressed me: they’ve picked off the root part of the bean sprouts! This is quite common practice at home over there or at the very least, it was common practice in my home! My mother would buy a huge bag of bean sprouts and then give them to me to pick off the roots. It’s an activity best done in front of the telly.

Bean Sprouts with Salted Fish

Another colleague’s order of a stuffed aubergine dish was unavailable (they’d run out) and was replaced with a spicy aubergine hotpot. Despite it being listed under the vegetable section of the menu, there was minced pork within and even better, large chunks of crispy fried pork fat! Now that’s a good claypot dish!

Spicy Aubergine Hotpot

With a drink or two each (I had a homemade barley water!), the meal came to about $100 – so $25 per head. It’s very good for a restaurant meal and one dines in air conditioned comfort here too which is always a plus in Singapore! I believe you can order an individual plate of chicken rice but I don’t know how much this will cost.

Boon Tong Kee
401 Balestier Road (there are other restaurants but this one is supposed to be the best)
Singapore 329803

In contrast, Tian Tian Chicken Rice is located in the Maxwell Food Centre, an outdoor hawker centre, and this hawker centre just so happens to be one we went to on our last trip here – it’s smack dab in the middle of Chinatown so is perfect for tourists without being too touristy itself. We found ourselves there for lunch again and almost immediately, Mirna joined the humongous queue that led towards the chicken rice stand. You can’t miss it.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

The chicken was served off the bone and the meal came with a bowl of chicken stock. The meat is wonderfully flavourful as is the accompanying chilli-garlic-ginger sauce (I like the latter better here). Sadly, the rice was a bit of a let down compared to the one we had at Boon Tong Kee. It was certainly tasty but it was the texture I took issue with; it seemed a little stodgy. There have certainly been reports that they haven’t been very consistent with the quality of their rice as of late.

We also chose a few sides (well, I mostly did as I was feeling greedy) since we were faced with so much variety at this hawker centre. From Tian Tian Chicken Rice as well, Mirna added an order of bok choy with oyster sauce.

Bok Choy

From the China Street Fritters stall, I got some ngoh hiang – fried goodies served with a gooey sweet brown sauce and a chilli sauce. I just bought two pieces of the classic five spiced pork rolled in bean curd skin. Crispy outsides and tender, flavourful insides.

Ngoh Hiang

A stand for Hainanese curry caught my eye on my first runaround and the nice man running it sold me a fried pork chop smothered in the curry sauce. This was my first time tasting Hainanese curry, which is odd seeing that I developed a minor obsession with it after seeing photos online. Very happily, it lived up to expectations – it’s a thickened, very slightly sweet and quite spicy and I loved it. I’m still looking for a reliable recipe for it!

Hainanese Curry

When I rejoined the queue for the chicken rice with Mirna, I overheard the women behind me talk about getting some rojak with their meal. Rojak! I hadn’t had that in years! They pointed me to the stand and I bought a small plateful of the salad of cucumber, jicama, pineapple and fried Chinese doughnuts tossed in a sticky, spicy, black prawn paste dressing and covered with chopped peanuts. It may not look like much but I absolutely adore it – it’s one of those flavours of home for me.


All this food came to about $15 total, I think, and I was absolutely stuffed at the end. If it’s just the chicken rice you want, a large plate will set you back only $3.30.

Tian Tian Chicken Rice
Stall 10
Maxwell Food Centre


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